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Career Coach: Report Cards

As the school year comes to an end, Pamela Kleibrink Thompson reminds us that being a good employee is elementary in its simplicity! Just follow these easy guidelines.

pam.gif Pamela Kleibrink Thompson

June traditionally is the time the school year ends and final report cards are issued. In elementary school, children are assessed on several factors including listening skills, cooperation and if they work well with others. If your employer and co-workers issued you a report card, how would it look? All of the following keys to career success are first learned and assessed in elementary school.

Works Well With Others

Nearly all projects require you to work as a member of a team. How you interact with others can have a significant and lasting impact on your career. Since most jobs are found through networking, make sure you are someone that people will want to work with again.

During life drawing sessions after work, one of the artists in my department appointed himself critic and dispensed unsolicited advice and critiques to the other artists in the room. The arrogance of the critical artist was not appreciated and the other artists did not want to work with him. Don't be a prima donna.

Don't expect to get special treatment and don't be someone who needs special treatment. If you become known as a person who is high maintenance, you will find it increasingly difficult to get hired. A person with a good reputation but little experience, talent or skills may be preferred over a person who is talented but difficult to deal with.

Listens Attentively

Be a good listener. Understand what is required and if you need clarification don't be afraid to ask questions. If you are unclear about your assignment, ask the person who assigned it to you.

It's important to follow directions and do the work that is required. If your job is to animate a model, do not redesign the model. Do not try to argue or belabor a point that has already been discussed and decided on.

Communicates Well

You must be able to express your ideas clearly and succinctly both to the artist at the desk next to yours as well as to supervisors.

Works Cooperatively in Groups

At a video game company where I worked, the artists were expected to do all aspects of the animation process from designing characters through animating and rendering those characters. One artist was adamant that he should be exempt from designing characters, that it didn't fall into his job description as animator. He was used to a studio that segmented all the jobs into well-defined roles. He stubbornly refused to design characters and was soon ousted from his team. No other teams wanted to bring him on (remember how important it is to work well with others?) and he soon found himself out of a job.

Demonstrates Problem Solving Ability

What you demonstrate in your portfolio and demo reel is how you think. It illustrates not only your artistic ability but how you solve problems. Problem solving is a key skill that all employers want.

Completes Work in Reasonable Time

Completing your job on time is essential so the other members of your team can do their job. Respect deadlines.

Sustains Focus on Task

Stay focussed on the job at hand. If you have trouble with your scene, don't wander aimlessly in the halls and bother your co-workers. Seek advice from your supervisors if something is really stumping you.

Contributes to Group Discussion

When it's appropriate, such as during brain storming sessions, voice your ideas and suggestions with a plan of action and possible solution. The more you know about the project, the more you'll be able to contribute.

Is Eager to Learn

To build a successful career in animation, you must be enthusiastic and ready to learn new skills. Techniques constantly evolve and you must be willing to try something new. Ink and paint artists who are working today had to learn how to use a mouse and ink and paint software programs instead of a brush and acrylic paint. That is the one constant in business -- change! Be flexible and adaptable.

Shows Enthusiasm

Be passionate about what you do. Animation requires patience both while at the drawing board or workstation and also often between jobs. Love what you do and learn all you can about the history of animation, techniques and trends. Use the time between jobs to expand your skill set and your network.

Goes Beyond What is Expected

A friend who is now a character and prop designer started as a production assistant on a television show. She got that first break by being persistent and keeping in touch with the production staff. Once she got that job she not only did an outstanding job in her position and never complained about the low pay, but also made herself available to others who might need extra help and put in extra hours to learn all facets of the production. When it was time to hire a new person on the crew, everyone asked that the P.A. be hired. She has the same work ethic today, a decade later, as she showed on her first job.

If you pay attention to these elementary rules, you're sure to make the grade.

Read more of Pamela's Career Coach advice columns now!

Pamela Kleibrink Thompson is uniquely qualified as a career coach, independent recruiter and management consultant. She frequently speaks about careers at colleges and universities.